In the pre-season there is no shortage of journalists, bloggers and talking heads willing to offer their predictions for the upcoming season. Why should we be any different? Here are twelve predictions for the Big 12 in 2010. You may find some to be no-brainers and others just down right bold. Feel free to add your own predictions in the comments section.
12 - Baylor Ends Bowl Drought - It's been 16 long years since Baylor last played in a bowl game. They finished two games shy of the necessary six win mark last season but the team was without quarterback Robert Griffin after he suffered a knee injury in the third game of the season. Baylor won that game 68-13 and won again the next week over Kent State but would only experience one more win after that.
In 2010, with a healthy Robert Griffin, Baylor's schedule sets up to help push them back into post season play. They open the season with two home games against Sam Houston State and Buffalo before traveling to TCU and Rice. Then they have home conference games against Kansas, Kansas State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma and a neutral site game against Texas Tech.
The key for their season is winning at least three of the first four games, picking up at least two home wins in conference and then pulling off a road win in conference. Circle October 16th when the Bears travel to Boulder to play Colorado.
11 - DeMarco Murray gets his 2,000 yards - Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray says he's going after 2,000 yards this season and I think he'll get it. It won't be 2,000 rushing yards though. Don't get me wrong! No one would be more thrilled to see him accomplish that goal more than me (and I think he'll actually push close to it) but keep in mind that it would be the greatest rushing performance in Oklahoma football history. With defenses jamming the box and question marks still lingering over the offensive line I'm not willing to say that he'll for sure get there. However, at the end of the season when you look back at his all-purpose yards you'll see that he's shattered the 2,000 yard barrier.
10 - Missouri will collapse - Look for the Tigers to jump out to a fast start with four of their first five games of the season (McNeese State, San Diego State, Miami (OH), & Colorado) being home games. They open the season with a neutral site game against Illinois in St. Louis so they won't play their first true road game October 16th when they visit Texas A&M. Look for that game to be a shootout and then look for the Tigers to go around .500 after that point as the schedule beefs up, defenses get stronger and the Missouri secondary gets exposed.
9 - O-State running back Kendall Hunter will lead the Big 12 in rushing attempts - Oklahoma State returns two starters (WR Hubert Anyiam/RG Lane Taylor) from last year's offense that averaged over 30 points per game. As the Pokes break in four new linemen, a new quarterback and three new receivers look for Hunter to be the benefactor.
Another factor to look at is that the defense only has three returning starters so it's likely that the Cowboys are going to try and control the tempo of the game and dominate the time of possession. Kendall Hunter carried the ball 89 times last season for 382 yards (4.3 YPC) but look for that to balloon up to 250-plus touches in 2010.
8 - Iowa State will finish second in the North - Count me as a fan of what Coach Paul Rhodes is doing at Iowa State. He guided the team to a 6-6 regular season record and an Insight Bowl victory over Minnesota in 2009. In 2010 their home schedule sets up for their eight returning starters on offense to improve on that record. The Cyclones only play four true road games this season and then will face Kansas State at Arrow Head Stadium. Their home conference games are Texas Tech, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri.
7 - Texas Tech's offense will suffer in the absence of Mike Leach - Tommy Tuberville is planning on keeping the spread offensive attack in Lubbock but without the "Mad Scientist" at the helm it loses its uniqueness. The Red Raiders will no longer have their own special brand of offense and will now just be identified as another spread attack. When they couple that with a bit of a quarterback controversy and we'll see the 37 points per game average from 2009 go down.
6 Texas A&.M's defense will cost them - The Aggies are the hot team to talk about in the pre-season because of Jerrod Johnson and the offense but the defense woes from last season cannot be ignored. Texas A&M was last in the Big 12 in total defense, passing defense and scoring defense and 11th in rushing defense. They're returning seven starters from last season and the four new guys to the 2010 Wrecking Crew (DE Spencer Nealy, DE Tony Jerod-Eddie, OLB Sean Porter and FS Steven Terrell) are three sophomores and a junior. The Aggies will finish the 2010 season with Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas being three of their final four games.
5 - Texas will find their rushing attack behind Tre' Newton but will drop in scoring average - If you believe the preseason buzz then Mack Brown is moving his offense to more of a run centered offense instead of the spread attack that gave Colt McCoy the option to pass first and run second. Breaking in a new quarterback is one reason for this move, as well as lack of depth at that position (two freshmen back up Garrett Gilbert), having James Kirkendoll and his 48 receptions from last year as the team's leading receiver going into 2010 in another. However, the main reason for the switch in philosophy was Tre' Newton's 4.8 yards per carry average in 2009.
It's a necessary move for the Longhorns that puts their biggest playmaking threat in position to make the most plays but look for their Big 12 leading 39.3 points per game from 2009 to go down. Gone will be the quick strike offense and in its place is a ground and pound system that will also rely heavily on the Big 12's best defensive secondary limit the production of their opponents offense.
4 - Colorado will alternate quarterbacks, again - They just won't be able to help it! Colorado signal callers will be behind an offensive line that allowed 43 sacks last season. Tyler Hansen and Cody Hawkins will both spend time rushing through their reads and running for their lives.
3 - Texas continues their 10 win season streak - As much as we hate to admit it, the demise of Texas football is greatly exaggerated. Yes, the Colt McCoy/Jordan Shipley era is over (cue the Hallelujah music) but programs like Texas and Oklahoma don't just drop off unless they experience a rash of injuries like the one OU suffered in 2009.
A non-conference schedule that features Rice, Wyoming, UCLA and Florida Atlantic and a total of seven games inside the state of Texas will push the Longhorns' consecutive 10-win season streak to 10 years.
2 - It will be a long season for the state of Kansas - Both the Jayhawks and the Wildcats are looking for a quarterbacks, both are coming off non-bowl seasons and both have games in the non-conference portion of their schedules that could be costly towards a bowl trip in 2010.
The Jayhawks are looking to fill both the role of starting quarterback and starting running back and will be tested early when Georgia Tech comes to Lawrence the second week of the season. Their conference slate includes road trips to Baylor, Iowa State and Nebraska with K-State, Texas A&M, Colorado and O-State coming to Lawrence their Border War showdown with Missouri in Kansas City.
The Wildcats do have one of the best running backs in the Big 12 (if not the best) but are replacing all of their offensive skill position players. They'll be tested right away when they open the season on September 4th at home against UCLA. They'll also play five of their last seven games of the season on the road including the final three in a row.
It could very well be that neither team makes the post-season again or just one of them, depending on who wins the in-state rivalry game on the 16th of October.
1 - Oklahoma and Nebraska will play for the conference title - The modern era of the Big 12 began with the old Big 8 reaching out to the Southwest Conference. Now that era of the Big 12 will end with the two traditional powers from the old Big 8 squaring off what could very well be the final Big 12 Championship game.